OPINION: Cook Made the Right Call to Put Brakes on Fishing Restrictions

Posted on July 7, 2023 by EDITORIAL BOARD

Proposed fishing restrictions were quietly moving forward under the guise of “designated swimming areas”  

This afternoon the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners issued a news release, putting the brakes on plans by staff to restrict certain fishing for eight months out of each year on MOST of the  Gulf of Mexico shoreline along Navarre Beach. 

Unfortunately, that news release should have been issued earlier, not after someone leaked to local media what was being planned by staffers behind closed doors.

Transparency and honesty are crucial to ensure government is treating citizens fairly and not unfairly favoring one group over others.

Our local fishing community deserves to know if/when county staff are actively working behind the scenes to propose or impose restrictions, allegedly based on complaints.

Working for the county isn’t always easy, but having staff attempt to unilaterally appease complainers by restricting others without first seeking public input is a HUGE mistake, which could have cost three commissioners their job next year when re-election rolls around.

But I’d like to express gratefulness to Santa Rosa County Administrator DeVann Cook for stopping this action before it escalated to the point of what we saw take place with the closure of Holley Point Boat Ramp. Unlike our former county administrator, Cook was smart enough to read the room and realize he was compromising the board.

District 3 Commissioner James Calkins also deserves praise for taking decisive action to guard the freedoms of local fishermen. He met with Cook early this morning and negotiated the halt.

“As of today, Fri., July 7, no additional swimming areas have been implemented and shark fishing has not been prohibited,” stated the release.

While, that is truly great news to hear, we did catch them trying to pull a fast one and must more closely watch to ensure sneaky surprises don’t happen again on Navarre Beach. 

“If staff moves forward with this recommendation, it will be discussed at a future board of county commissioners meeting in late July or early August to allow more time for public input.”

That should be common sense. But somehow it wasn’t. 

So if Mr. Cook wants to add this to a future commission agenda, he should do so with ample notice to the public so that citizens may be heard. He should also be ready to provide us with all the documented complaints which triggered staff in the first place, starting back before May 22.